Arranging for people from five companies and two countries to come together for a summer leadership summit is no small feat, but Tobyn Sowden, CEO of Redbrick Technologies Inc., was determined this would reconnect people post pandemic.
“We hosted all our leaders, the CEOs and leadership teams from Redbrick, and our four portfolio companies for three days of presentations and activities, including a talk by Olympic gold medalist, Simon Whitfield,” says Sowden. “It was the biggest event we’ve hosted but so important after not seeing each other.”
The Victoria-based software and technology services company owns two Canadian companies and two in the American Midwest. The software companies are focused on supporting digital entrepreneurs, explains Sowden.
“There have been a lot of wins in our businesses and I think it’s really great to bring people together to celebrate those wins,” says Sowden.
“It’s been a breath of fresh air to see this team get back together and reconnect face-to-face.”
Subtleties, like facial expressions, smiles or eye-to-eye contact, get lost when people work strictly online through video conferencing and written communication, notes Sowden.
“A lot of what I mean by reconnecting is to reconnect in person and in a bit of a human and social way,” he says. “I think part of reconnecting is shoring up foundations or starting to build a new foundation.”
Redbrick creates equal opportunity for employees whether they connect remotely or in person, Sowden adds.
Isla Swanwick, people and culture specialist, remembers the leadership summit as a time of meeting new people along with seeing those she knew again.
“It was amazing to connect and just have that in-person time,” she says. “It was coming face-to-face with our employees, not just knowing them from a resume. It was a great bonding time.”
Swanwick notes that although the pandemic meant people worked from home, there was an upside for Redbrick.
“COVID definitely changed the culture for us, but I think in a good way, too, because now it opens the door for us to recruit across Canada and the United States,” she says. “The job isn’t limited to location, which is terrific.
“We’ve left it very flexible for employees. Each company — Redbrick and the four portfolios — figured out a cadence for their hybrid teams to go into the office, usually once a week,” Swanwick adds. “But each person has a different personal life, so being fully remote might work better for them.”
She says Redbrick offers different incentives, encouraging employees to regularly reconnect at the office. Employees who commute to work are given $12 daily regardless of whether they walk, bike or drive. Those who bike are given $500 annually to help pay for gear, maintenance or a new bike.
“We’ve also started catered lunches about once a month. We’re doing pancake breakfasts quarterly so we’re trying to keep our teams reconnected,” adds Swanwick.
Redbrick also organizes monthly virtual coffee chats to pair employees from across the companies. As well, Redbrick hosts both in person and virtual sound meditations to encourage everyone to take a moment away from their work and pause.
“Perhaps the office may be a little less about people sitting at desks and more of a place to come together,” adds Sowden.
He says the leadership summit will be annual and he’s gained a lot personally from reconnecting with people, whether they’re from the Victoria office or Midwest offices.
“What I got from reconnecting is an appreciation for the team and their lives and how we fit into it,” he says.
“Reconnecting helped me build relationships with the people I work with.”
Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.